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The Kidnapped Bride
May 25, 2006 8:40 AM   Subscribe

"The groom confesses he has had some difficulty finding a bride, but he is hopeful that 'this one will stay.'"
If you were a young man looking to settle down with a girl, what would you do? Let friends or family set you up? Try the bar scene? Match.com? If you lived in rural Kyrgyzstan, you might skip the courtship and just kidnap whatever girl catches your eye. This fascinating Frontline/World piece explores a strange but shockingly common practice. According to one study, more than a third of ethnic Kyrgyz women are married by kidnapping.
posted by justkevin (36 comments total)

 
Borat speaks the truth.
posted by I Foody at 8:47 AM on May 25, 2006


I watched a documentary on this on the Discovery Times Channel. Very enlightening..

While the women are not happy about this, they do almost seemed resigned to the fact that it happens. Often, the family members of the woman in question will be brought in to help with convincing the girl to stay and be married.
posted by eas98 at 8:47 AM on May 25, 2006


I saw Petr Lom's documentary about this at the Siskel Film Center. Some of the women seem very happy with the system, and many of the older women, who are attempting to persuade the girl that she ought to marry into the family that kidnapped her, do so by saying 'I myself was kidnapped, and now look at me!'

On preview: Mostly what eas98 said.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:52 AM on May 25, 2006


Success probably hinges on the Out-Of-Box-Experience.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:56 AM on May 25, 2006


Wow, a Stockholm Syndrome culture. A nation's sons and daughters raised in families created under ¡Átame! circumstances!

I have never heard of this occuring on such a scale. Thanks, justkevin.
posted by redteam at 9:00 AM on May 25, 2006


Success probably hinges on the Out-Of-Box-Experience.
lmao! :D
posted by zenzizi at 9:05 AM on May 25, 2006


Anyone reminded of the wildlings in A Game Of Thrones?
posted by Ryvar at 9:17 AM on May 25, 2006


I'm gonna move to rural Kyrgyzstan and open a business selling clubs, leopard-skin togas, and caves.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:24 AM on May 25, 2006


Oddly familiar. My mother assures this was common in the rural Mexican village (state of Michoacan) she grew up in too, up until about 30 years ago.

In fact, I distinctly recall one pretty girl cousin of mine. One day, we were suddenly going to her wedding. I asked my mom who this guy was and she explained that he "la rapto" - he had kidnapped her. The family (his and hers) had all agreed that the best thing was for her to marry him.
posted by vacapinta at 9:27 AM on May 25, 2006


Often, the family members of the woman in question will be brought in to help with convincing the girl to stay and be married

Yes; by convincing her that she has nowhere else to go, by manipulating her, by keeping her from attempting escape or contacting anyone else who could help her. Why? Because once kidnapped, she's damaged property, and if she doesn't become some guy's sexual and reproductive property, she has no use.

I believe that's not "convincing" so much as "coercing."

I'm not fascinated so much as sickened. Couldn't make it all the way through the last documentary I saw on this, because the look of terror and betrayal on the girl's face as she screamed for her freedom were nightmare-inducing. I cannot imagine the horror of seeing your future and your ability to choose suddenly snatched from you. Because you are nothing but a walking uterus, less than a person. Less than an animal, in some ways. It's patriarchy in its rawest, most hateful form, and it's disgusting. Not just exotic or strange--those wacky foreigners!--but disgusting.

The fact that many women eventually adjust and accept their situation just attests to their wills to survive, (and to the indoctrination they're received all their lives) not to any indication that they actually feel good about this state of affairs.

I am glad that some of them escape. I wonder how many didn't or have died like the poor girl who suicided.
posted by emjaybee at 9:40 AM on May 25, 2006


Yes; by convincing her that she has nowhere else to go, by manipulating her, by keeping her from attempting escape or contacting anyone else who could help her. Why? Because once kidnapped, she's damaged property, and if she doesn't become some guy's sexual and reproductive property, she has no use.

Actually in the doc I saw, one of the girls who did nothing but scream and cry was let go, and returned to her family. No 'damaged goods' notions at all, as far as I could tell.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:45 AM on May 25, 2006


Quick! Someone alert the blogosphere!
posted by mischief at 9:51 AM on May 25, 2006


This reads like something out of Monty Python.
posted by dobie at 9:56 AM on May 25, 2006


The fact that many women eventually adjust and accept their situation just attests to their wills to survive

Adjusting and accepting their situation != coercing their own daughters to do the same years from now.
posted by dreamsign at 9:59 AM on May 25, 2006


"Bless your beautiful hide
Wherever you may be.
We ain't met yet
But I'm a willin' to bet
You're the gal for me."

Just me thinking of this? While I agree mostly with emjaybee, what if many of (most?) them were happy? How is this different from arranged marriages (well, I guess there is maybe more parent to parent discussions?) other than say, a shocking way of getting the bride?

I guess it's a continuum, some of the kidnapping,there is parental 'matching', other times, its just taking a girl off the street.
posted by eurasian at 10:03 AM on May 25, 2006


What would Kirk do? (Given the Prime Directive and all...)
posted by mischief at 10:09 AM on May 25, 2006


To clarify, the one-third statistic is for non-consensual kidnappings. I was originally going to put "non-consensual kidnapping" in the FPP, but thought it sounded too odd, although around a quarter of modern kidnapping marriages are consensual.

"Consensual kidnapping" sounds like an oxymoron, partly the result of the ambiguous translation of the term for the custom, "ala kachuu," which literally means "to escape."

I gather that depending on the specific case, it could mean anything from our idea of kidnapping to something more benign like a role-playing elopement.
posted by justkevin at 10:19 AM on May 25, 2006


Borat speaks the truth.

Uh, borat pretents to be from an entirely diffrent country.
posted by delmoi at 10:22 AM on May 25, 2006


Borat is from Kazakhstan.
posted by reformedjerk at 10:43 AM on May 25, 2006


Wasn't this how exogamy got started? In terms of anthropology, it's interesting to see that some cultures are still behaving in this manner, after all, we all did this back when we were tribes.
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:12 AM on May 25, 2006


Not much different than getting a drunk girl to go home with you.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 11:18 AM on May 25, 2006


Because, sometimes, you just gotta ransack the village and loot the booty.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 11:19 AM on May 25, 2006


Dinner and a mauling?
posted by klangklangston at 11:39 AM on May 25, 2006


I wonder how these Kyrgyzstanian men handle defective goods. Say they find that their new bride has uneven labia, or god forbid, free will, can they just dump it back where they found it? Once again the West shows us the way, tis far better to unwrap and inspect the goods thoroughly before signing anything. Not that I'm making moral judgements on an element of their culture.
posted by econous at 11:46 AM on May 25, 2006


I have a friend who was kidnapped and married in this way. (In Guinea not Kyrgyzstan, though.) It's not totally unusual there either. In her case, her mother and future spouse tricked her into travelling to the husband's town, and once she was there she was married, (at age 14). She said she had an inkling that something was up when she arrived in the village because she recognized her husband as a man who had visited her own village months earlier. She was (is) quite fiesty, and absolutely refused to marry the guy. Consent is not at required in these marriages, though, so the marriage went through. When she refused to have sex with him, some men from the village tied her to the bed and guarded while her husband raped her and a couple of older ladies watched to make sure the marriage was officially consummated. After that, she tried to escape every week for a month, until she finally made it home. Once she was about halfway home when an older man recognized her and brought her back to her husband. When she got home, her mother was furious that she was back because the mother had already started spending the dowery. The husband & co. arrived in her village to try to take her back, but my friend threatened to level all kinds of traditional curses on them, and they eventually backed off. I'm not sure what happened with the dowery.

Epilogue: Her older brothers were studying in a nearby town, and after that they took her away from her mother and she spent the rest of her growing up in the town. She has never been married since (she's about 32 now), but frequently has multiple (like 5) lovers, usually with political connections. She has a baby son. She's curious about lesbianism, and would like to give it a try. She joined the Guinean military, and caused a lot of trouble in her home village one weekend by planting drugs on a police officer and pretending to find them on him. She's one of the most independent-minded women I met in Guinea - strong, domineering, audacious, a little crazy. She's the only woman I ever heard of who escaped from a forced marriage at that age.
posted by Amizu at 11:59 AM on May 25, 2006 [2 favorites]


Not much more to add here other than to say "yes, this is very true". Most every successful Kyrgyz woman I met had a divorce behind her, most of them kidnapped.

Another fun Kyrgyz fact: it is lucky to steal someone's dog or knife. Only culture I've ever been in that accepted / actively encouraged theft.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:42 PM on May 25, 2006


Not much different than getting a drunk girl to go home with you.

Aye.

If a culture treats women as property, then "claiming" them like this isn't really kidnapping ("after all, they're not real people! etc."). Women have been property for most of history in Western countries, so it's not like we weren't guilty of something like this once.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 1:02 PM on May 25, 2006


If you feel the need to get a woman intoxicated (and not by spiking her drink), surely it is an admission to free will. Which you are working to undermine.
posted by dreamsign at 1:34 PM on May 25, 2006


"If you feel the need to get a woman intoxicated (and not by spiking her drink), surely it is an admission to free will. Which you are working to undermine."

If you need to get a woman drunk to kidnap her, you're not man enough to be Kyrgyz.
posted by klangklangston at 1:40 PM on May 25, 2006


"If you feel the need to get a woman intoxicated (and not by spiking her drink), surely it is an admission to free will. Which you are working to undermine."

If you need to get a woman drunk to kidnap her, you're not man enough to be Kyrgyz.
posted by klangklangston at 1:40 PM on May 25, 2006


My first thought, too, was that Borat wasn't too far off the mark as far as traditions and mores in Central Asia are concerned.

"In my country we say: God, man, horse, dog, then woman, then rat."
posted by sour cream at 1:42 PM on May 25, 2006


It could be worse. Baboons kidnap way-underage females from their mothers and keep 'em around until they're mature. (And then keep 'em after that, too, naturally.) Nasty primates, I'm glad I'm a crustacean.
posted by jfuller at 2:15 PM on May 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


She joined the Guinean military, and caused a lot of trouble in her home village one weekend by planting drugs on a police officer and pretending to find them on him.
Sounds like the husband got off lightly. When your son says to you "This one father, she has free will.. so passionate" Smack'em upside the head and gently explain.. "..my beloved son, you want the ones that are dead inside.."
posted by econous at 2:52 PM on May 25, 2006


It's interesting that I find this much more creepy than dowries. I guess it's because it denies not only women but their families the right to choose a husband for her; no one who might have the woman's best interests at heart has a say in selecting her husband and he doesn't have to prove anything besides his... ability to kidnap. And at least one of the kidnapping families quoted in the first link gave their reason for kidnapping as brides being "too expensive"-- not only are they a commodity, they're a commodity that's not worth anything. I don't know why that's more disturbing than just plain "commodity," but I think it is.

And might I add that, despite the filmmaker's pious exhortations about how they told the girls they were "just there to observe and the women had the right to do whatever they wanted," the concept of leaving a kidnap victim to face off her kidnappers for ten hours (they find her sobbing in a corner and still fending off the tireless old ladies, according to the description on the website) has me more than a little bit creeped out.
posted by posadnitsa at 4:05 PM on May 25, 2006


Could this be the third film in Julia Roberts and Richard Gere's romantic trilogy ?
posted by ktoad at 5:02 PM on May 25, 2006


What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me..."
posted by taosbat at 12:06 AM on May 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


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